By Julia Evelsizer; Photos by David Proeber
BLOOMINGTON — The privilege of a new backpack and fresh stash of school supplies comes at a cost — and for some, that cost is too high.
Twin City residents can help families with their back-to-school needs by purchasing and donating school supplies through the Back 2 School Alliance this summer.
“Our goal is to have all students ready to start school on day one. That includes school supplies and backpacks, but also the child must be registered and be current with their health exams and immunizations,” said Jan Meadows, chair of the Back 2 School Alliance.
The organization serves nearly 3,000 students each year in McLean County Unit 5 and Bloomington District 87 schools.
“To see a child’s face on the first day of school is powerful, especially when they have supplies like everyone else,” said Meadows.
The drive officially kicks off Thursday with collection boxes stationed at Hy-Vee, McLean County Museum of History, Brad Barker Honda, YWCA, both Walmart stores and Katie’s Kids Daycare Center.
Hy-Vee will round up sale totals for donation during the last two weeks of July. Collection drives will occur at Office Depot on July 21 and at Walmart in Normal July 21 and 22.
Requested items for donation include backpacks; 1.5- or 2-inch zippered binders; divider tabs; two-pocket folders; lined index cards; rulers; wide-ruled paper; wide-ruled spiral notebooks; 1.5-inch, three-ring binders; pencils; pens; erasers; glue sticks; colored pencils; markers; crayons; highlighters; and scissors.
“What we really need are backpacks for the older kids that have a laptop pocket in them. All kids in District 87 and Unit 5 have one-to-one technology access, but aren’t allowed to take the laptops home if they can’t carry them safely,” said Meadows.
School officials said the donations allow all students to start the year on the right foot.
“Everyone having the same start at the beginning of school is critical for each students’ success. The program is well-received each year and our families are very appreciative of the support,” said Unit 5 Superintendent Mark Daniel.
District 87 Superintendent Barry Reilly said being on the same starting level as their peers gives students more confidence.
“It goes a long way. People underestimate the ability to get school supplies. You have families who are struggling to buy groceries or pay rent, and those needs take priority over everything else,” said Reilly. “We’re thankful that the community rallies around these kids and does a great job helping families out with this need.”
Supplies will be distributed at the Back 2 School Alliance party from 1 to 5 p.m. Aug. 9 at Grossinger Motors Arena in Bloomington, with an express pickup lane from 5 to 6 p.m.
Unit 5 and District 87 will issue tickets to the event for low-income families with students in kindergarten through high school by mail or during walk-in registration at school.
Students must be registered for school, provide recent immunization paperwork and meet federal low-income requirements for free or reduced lunches.
An invitation must be presented to receive supplies.
The party will include games, giveaways and community resource services for families, including information for low-cost utility services, music lessons for low-income families and GED classes through Heartland Community College.
Donations to the Back to School Alliance may be made online or mailed to the Illinois Prairie Community Foundation. 2401 E. Washington St., Suite 300B, Bloomington, IL 61704.
Back 2 School Alliance donation spots
School supplies can be donated through drop-off boxes at the following locations:
Downtown Bloomington Association Farmers Market on Saturdays; Bloomington District 87 office, 300 E. Monroe St.; Brad Barker Honda, 1601 GE Rd. Normal; CVS, 1130 S. Veterans Parkway, Bloomington; Hy-Vee, 1403 N. Veterans Parkway, Bloomington; Katie’s Kids Learning Center, 1602 Glenbridge Rd. in Bloomington and 2003 Jacobssen Dr. in Normal; McLean County Museum of History, 200 N. Main St., Bloomington; Mid Central Community Action, 1301 W. Washington St., Bloomington; Office Depot 1700 E. College Ave., Normal; McLean County Unit 5 office, 1809 W. Hovey Ave., Normal; Schnucks, 1701 E. Empire St., Bloomington; United Way of McLean County, 201 E. Grove St., Bloomington; Walmart at 300 Greenbriar Dr. in Normal and 2225 W. Market St. in Bloomington; and YWCA, 1201 N. Hershey Rd., Bloomington.